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The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee a majority of the Electoral College to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote in the Electoral College reflects the choice of the nation's voters for President of the United States.   more
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    23. Myths about Congressional or Proportional Allocation of Electoral Votes

    1.23.1  MYTH: It would be better to allocate electoral votes by congressional district.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • Allocating electoral votes by congressional district would make a bad system even worse.
  • District allocation would reduce the percentage of Americans living in closely divided battleground areas.
  • District allocation would not guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide.
  • District allocation would not make every vote equal.
  • District allocation would increase the incentive to gerrymander congressional districts and magnify the effects of gerrymandering.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Under the congressional-district approach for allocating electoral votes (as currently used in Maine and Nebraska), the voters elect two presidential electors statewide and one presidential elector for each of a state’s congressional districts.[501]

    Curtis Gans and Leslie Francis (opponents of direct election of the President) advocate use of the district system.

    “The lack of competition and campaigning in a majority of states owes itself not to the existence of the Electoral College’s indirect method of choosing presidents but rather to the winner-take-all method of choosing electors in all but two states. If a party knows either that it can’t win a single elector in a state or has an easy road to winning all of them, it sends its resources to where it has a competitive chance.

    “There are alternatives to winner-take-all that do not involve abandoning the positive aspects of the Electoral College. All states could adopt the system that now exists in Maine and Nebraska, where all but two electors are chosen by congressional district, and the other two go to the statewide winner. Or states might explore what was recently proposed in Colorado—that electors be allocated in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote above a certain threshold. Either would provide a reason for both parties to compete in most states because there would be electors to win. Either would likely produce an electoral vote count closer to the popular vote. [502] [Emphasis added]

    In fact, the congressional-district approach fails when evaluated against the criteria of whether it would make presidential elections more competitive, whether it would accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote, and whether it would make every vote equal. In short, allocating electoral votes by congressional district would make a bad system even worse.

    As to competitiveness, even fewer Americans live in presidentially competitive congressional districts than live in battleground states. In the 2000 presidential election, there were only 55 congressional districts (out of 435 districts) in which the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore was 4% or less in the district. Similarly, in 2004, there were only 42 congressional districts nationwide in which the difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry was 4% or less in the district. That is, only about a tenth of the population of the country lives in a congressional district that is closely divided in presidential elections. In contrast, about a fifth of the country’s population currently lives in a battleground state.

    One reason for this difference is that congressional districts are often gerrymandered in favor of one particular political party in many states. Gerrymandering is most commonly done to give one party an unfair political advantage. If electoral votes were allocated by congressional district, state legislatures would have even greater incentives to gerrymander districts than they do now.

    Gerrymandering is also occasionally done as part of a bipartisan agreement to ensure safe seats to incumbents of both parties.

    As to accurately reflecting the nationwide popular vote, a second-place candidate could easily win the Presidency under the congressional-district approach. If the congressional-district approach had been applied to the results of the 2000 presidential election, Bush would have received 288 electoral votes (53.3% of the total number of electoral votes), and Gore would have received 250 electoral votes (46.5% of the total). That is, the congressional-district approach would have given Bush a 6.8% lead in electoral votes over Gore in 2000. Under the existing system, Bush received 271 electoral votes in 2000 (50.4% of the total number of electoral votes)—a 0.8% lead in electoral votes over Gore. The congressional district approach would have greatly magnified Bush’s lead in electoral votes in an election in which Gore received 50,992,335 popular votes (50.2% of the nationwide two-party popular vote) compared to Bush’s 50,455,156 votes. In summary, the congressional-district approach would have been even less accurate than the existing state-by-state winner-take-all system in terms of reflecting the nationwide will of the voters.

    In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush carried 255 (59%) of the 435 congressional districts, whereas John Kerry carried 180. Bush also carried 31 (61%) of the 51 jurisdictions (the 50 states plus the District of Columbia) entitled to appoint presidential electors. If the congressional-district approach had been used nationwide for the 2004 presidential election, Bush would have won 317 (59%) of the 538 electoral votes in an election in which he received 51.5% of the two-party nationwide popular vote.

    As to making every vote equal, there is a wide disparity in the number of votes cast in various congressional districts for a variety of reasons. Inside some states, there is a three-to-one disparity in the number of votes cast in particular districts (due to factors such as population changes since the last federal census and variations in turnout level among districts).

    In a 2012 analysis, Thomas, Gelman, King, and Katz concluded that:

    “the current electoral college and direct popular vote are both substantially fairer compared to those alternatives where states would have divided their electoral votes by congressional district.” [503]

    The congressional-district approach could be implemented in two ways.

    First, an individual state could decide to allocate its electoral votes by district (as Maine and Nebraska currently do).

    Second, a federal constitutional amendment could be adopted to implement the congressional-district approach on a nationwide basis.

    Of course, passing a constitutional amendment requires an enormous head of steam at the beginning of the process (i.e., getting a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress). There have been only 17 amendments ratified since the Bill of Rights. The last time Congress successfully launched a federal constitutional amendment (voting by 18-year-olds) was in 1971.

    There is a prohibitive political impediment associated with the adoption of the congressional-district approach on a piecemeal basis by individual states. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson argued that Virginia should switch from its then-existing district system of electing presidential electors to the statewide winner-take-all system because of the political disadvantage suffered by states (such as Virginia) that divided their electoral votes by districts in a political environment in which other states used the winner-take-all approach:

    “while 10. states chuse either by their legislatures or by a general ticket [winner-take-all], it is folly & worse than folly for the other 6. not to do it.” [504] [Spelling and punctuation as per original] [Emphasis added]

    Indeed, the now-prevailing statewide winner-take-all system became entrenched in the political landscape in the 1830s precisely because dividing a state’s electoral votes diminishes the state’s political influence relative to states using the statewide winner-take-all approach.

    The “folly” of individual states adopting the congressional-district approach on a piecemeal basis is shown by the fact that there were only 55 congressional districts in which the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore was 4% or less in the 2000 presidential election. Suppose that as many as 48 or 49 states were to allocate their electoral votes by district, but that just one or two large, closely divided battleground states did not. The one or two state(s) retaining the winner-take-all system would immediately become the only state(s) that would matter in presidential politics. Thus, if states were to start adopting the congressional-district approach on a piecemeal basis, each state adopting the approach would increase the influence of the remaining winner-take-all states and thereby decrease the chance that the remaining states would adopt that approach. A state-by-state process of adopting the congressional-district approach would bring itself to a halt.

    For additional information on the congressional-district approach, see sections 3.3 and 4.2.

    Congressional-District Proposal in Pennsylvania

    In September 2011, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature to award the state’s electoral votes by congressional district.

    Pileggi’s proposed bill would have replaced Pennsylvania’s current winner-take-all statute (allocating all 20 of the state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes statewide) with a statute similar to that currently used by Maine and Nebraska. Under Pileggi’s proposed bill, the candidate winning each congressional district would receive one electoral vote, and the candidate winning the state would receive a bonus of two at-large electoral votes.

    At the time Senator Pileggi introduced his bill in 2011, the Democratic nominee for President had won Pennsylvania in the five elections since 1992. In the fall of 2011, it was widely expected that President Obama would win Pennsylvania again in 2012. In fact, Obama did win Pennsylvania in November 2012.

    The Republicans won control of both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature and the Governor’s office in November 2010. At the time Senator Pileggi introduced his bill in 2011, it was widely expected that the legislature would adopt a congressional redistricting plan that would be favorable to the Republican Party. The legislature did, in fact, adopt such a plan in 2012.

    The congressional-district approach was criticized on the basis that it would diminish the state’s clout in presidential elections by dividing Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

    State Senator Daylin Leach (a leading Democratic opponent of the bill) said:

    Pennsylvania is a battleground state, it gets a ton of attention, a ton of resources. The day this bill passes we become irrelevant to electoral campaigns.… We become Utah on the day this bill passes.”[505] [Emphasis added]

    In a September 27, 2011, article entitled “Specter Bluntly Says Electoral Change Will Cut Fed Funding for PA,” former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (who was a Republican until he changed parties in 2009) said:

    “I think it’d be very bad for Pennsylvania because we wouldn’t attract attention from Washington on important funding projects for the state.”

    “Under the current electoral system, Obama has good reason to give us the money to carry Pennsylvania. Because Presidents think that way. It affects their decisions.”

    “In 2004, when I ran with Bush, he was running for re-election and so was I. The President came to Pennsylvania 44 times, and he was looking for items the state needed to help him win the state.”

    “That has been the tradition with the Presidents I served with and it helped us get federal funding throughout the state. It has worked pretty well for us for 30 years, I can tell you.”

    “It’s undesirable to change the system so Presidents won’t be asking us always for what we need, what they can do for us.”

    “For 30 years, that system has worked pretty well for us, and it’s undesirable to alter a system that is not broken.” [506] [Emphasis added]

    Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) said on September 17, 2011:

    “Why would you pay any attention to Pennsylvania? Why would you care, day in and day out, about doing things for Pennsylvania? … We’re sacrificing tremendous clout that we presently have.” [507] [Emphasis added]

    On September 13, Rendell said that presidential elections are decided by:

    “basically Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida.”

    “That gives us tremendous clout when the governor of Pennsylvania asks the president or Congress for something, such as disaster recovery aid, Rendell said. If the disaster’s cost is close to what qualifies the state for federal aid, its electoral votes tip the balance in its favor.” [508]

    Some Republicans did not support Pileggi’s congressional-district proposal in 2011, including Rob Gleason, the Republican State Chairman. Gleason said:

    “We would no longer be a battleground state with all the benefits that come with that.” [509]

    National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions raised the concern that focusing the presidential campaign on Pennsylvania’s closely divided congressional districts might endanger some Republican incumbents (particularly ones elected to Congress for the first time in the November 2010 Republican sweep). [510]

    The congressional-district proposal was widely discussed by Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states that Obama had carried in 2008 and where the Republican Party controlled both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s office.

    In the end, the congressional-district proposal was not enacted by Pennsylvania or any other state in 2012.

    In a December 2012 article entitled “Electoral College Chaos: How Republicans Could Put a Lock on the Presidency,” Rob Richie discussed the political effect of the congressional-district proposal in six states that President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 and where the Republican party controlled both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s office (that is, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida). [511]

    In November 2012, President Obama won the electoral votes of these six states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida) by a 106–0 margin over Governor Romney. This 106–0 margin helped President Obama win the Electoral College by a 62-vote margin (332–206).

    Table 9.21 shows the effect (using data from Richie’s article) of applying Senator Pileggi’s proposed congressional-district approach to the actual 2012 election returns from six states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida). Columns 2 and 3 show the November 2012 statewide election results. Columns 4 and 5 show the number of congressional districts won by President Obama and Governor Romney in 2012 in each state, respectively. Columns 6 and 7 show the assignment of the bonus of two at-large electoral votes (all of which went to Obama because Obama carried all six states). Columns 8 and 9 show the total Democratic and Republican electoral votes under the congressional-district approach.

    Table 9.21 Political effect of Senator Pileggi’s congressional-district approach in six states that Obama carried in 2012

    State

    D

    R

    D districts

    R districts

    D at-large

    R at-large

    D total

    R total

    FL

    50%

    49%

    11

    16

    2

    0

    13

    16

    MI

    54%

    45%

    5

    9

    2

    0

    5

    9

    OH

    51%

    48%

    4

    12

    2

    0

    6

    12

    PA

    52%

    47%

    5

    13

    2

    0

    7

    13

    VA

    51%

    47%

    4

    7

    2

    0

    6

    7

    WI

    53%

    46%

    3

    5

    2

    0

    5

    5

    Total

     

     

    32

    62

    12

    0

    44

    62

    Under the congressional-district approach (currently used by Maine and Nebraska and proposed by Pennsylvania Senator Pileggi in 2011), President Obama would have received only 44 electoral votes to Governor Romney’s 62 electoral votes in the six states in table 9.21, and President Obama would have ended up with a razor-thin 270–268 win in the Electoral College in 2012.

    A National Journal article entitled “The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme” in December 2012 reported:

    “Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.

    “Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.…

    “If more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.

    “All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.…

    “The proposals, the senior GOP official said, are likely to come up in each state’s legislative session in 2013. Bills have been drafted, and legislators are talking to party bosses to craft strategy.…

    “In the long run, Republican operatives say they would like to pursue similar Electoral College reform in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Obama won all three states, but Romney won a majority of the congressional districts in each state.

    “Rewriting the rules would dramatically shrink or eliminate the Democratic advantage, because of the way House districts are drawn.…

    “If Republicans go ahead with their plan, Democrats don’t have the option of pushing back.… Some consistently blue presidential states have Republican legislatures; the reverse is not true.” [512] [Emphasis added]

    In December 2012, Pennsylvania state Representatives Robert Godshall (R) and Seth Grove (R) announced that they intended to introduce a bill to implement the congressional-district approach in Pennsylvania in 2013 (similar to Senator Pileggi’s 2011 proposal).

    PoliticsPA pointed out that Pennsylvania lost its battleground status in 2012:

    “Once a reliable battleground state, Pennsylvania spent most of the 2012 presidential campaign on the sidelines.” [513]

    The memo soliciting colleagues to co-sponsor the congressional-district bill said:

    “I believe that the Congressional District Method will increase voter turnout and encourage candidates to campaign in all states rather than just those that are competitive.… Most importantly, this method of selecting presidential electors will give a stronger voice to voters in all regions of our great Commonwealth.” [Emphasis added]

    For additional information on the congressional-district approach, see sections 3.3 and 4.2.

    See section 9.23.2 for a discussion of Senator Pileggi’s proposal in December 2012 to divide 18 of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes in proportion to each party’s statewide vote for President and to award a bonus of two at-large electoral votes to the candidate winning the state as a whole.

    Congressional-District Proposal in Michigan

    A December 18, 2012, article entitled “Shake up the Electoral College? GOP Proposal Would Have Helped Mitt Romney Win Michigan” reported that state Representative Pete Lund (R), Chair of the House Redistricting and Elections Committee, announced that he planned to introduce a bill in the legislature in 2012 to enact the congressional-district approach (that is, the approach currently used in Maine and Nebraska and that was proposed by Senator Pileggi in Pennsylvania in 2011).[514]

     

    In another article, Representative Lund stated:

    “It’s more representative of the people.… A person doesn't win a state by 100 percent of the vote, so this is a better, more accurate way.… People would feel voting actually matters. It’s an idea I’ve had for several years.” [515]

    An Associated Press story reported:

    “Pete Lund, Michigan’s House Republican whip, said next year is an opportune time to renew the push for his bill to award two electoral votes to the statewide winner and allocate the rest based on results in each congressional district—the method used by Nebraska and Maine.

    “The 2016 election ‘is still a few years away and no one knows who the candidates are going to be,’ said Lund.” [516]

    A December 20, 2012, article in the Christian Post entitled “GOP Operatives Eye Reversal of Democrats' Electoral College Edge” reported:

    “The current method of calculating electoral college votes in most states gives Democrats an edge in presidential races. Republicans operatives are working to undo that edge, not by supporting a popular vote, though, as most Americans would prefer, but by supporting changes that would give Republicans an edge.

    “In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the majority of votes in the state receives all the electors for that state. In Maine and Nebraska, electors are assigned by congressional district. A candidate gets one elector for each congressional district they win and two more electors if they win the popular vote in the state.

    “Republican operatives are working to cherry pick a few select states to change the system to one like Maine and Nebraska in order to pick up a few more electors in the next presidential election.

    “The states they are looking at are Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Obama won all three of those states in 2008 and 2012. Combined, those states netted 46 electors for President Barack Obama. If those states had assigned electors by congressional district, though, at least 26 electors would have likely gone to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney instead of Obama, according to calculations by Reid Wilson for National Journal. It would not have been enough for Romney to win, but would at least put future Republican candidates in a better position to win in future elections.

    “One aspect that all three of those states have in common is their state governments are controlled by Republicans, making the change possible. It also means that the 2010 redistricting in those states was controlled by the Republicans, thus giving them an advantage in drawing congressional district lines favorable to their party.…

    “The current plan pursued by some Republicans is not aimed at fixing perceived flaws in the system, though. Rather, it is aimed at simply helping Republicans win. (Notice they are not proposing the same system for states like Texas, which would help Democrats gain a few more electors.)” [517] [Emphasis added]

    Congressional-District Proposal in Virginia

    In December 2012, Virginia state Senator Charles Carrico proposed a variation of the congressional-district approach.[518] Under Carrico’s proposed legislation, the candidate winning each congressional district would receive one electoral vote, and the candidate winning a majority of Virginia’s 13 districts would receive a bonus of two at-large electoral votes.

    In November 2012, President Obama won four of Virginia’s 11 districts and Governor Romney won seven.

    If the congressional-district approach that is currently used in Maine and Nebraska were applied to the 2012 election results in Virginia, President Obama would have won six of the state’s 13 electoral votes to Governor Romney’s seven (even though Obama carried the state).

    If Senator Carrico’s proposal were applied to the 2012 election results in Virginia, President Obama would have won four of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to Governor Romney’s nine (even though Obama carried the state).

    Congressional-District Proposal in Wisconsin

    A December 22, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article entitled “Walker Open to Changing state’s Electoral College Allocations” reported that:

    “Gov. Scott Walker is open to having Wisconsin allocate its Electoral College votes based on results from each congressional district—a move that would offer Republicans a chance to score at least a partial victory in a state that has gone Democratic in the last seven presidential elections.

    “The idea is being considered in other battleground states that have tipped toward Democrats as Republicans try to develop a national plan to capture the presidency in future years.…

    “In the weeks since Obama won re-election, Republicans are now eyeing splitting up electoral votes in other key battleground states, according to the National Journal. If Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania went to such a system, Republicans would have a chance to edge into the national Electoral College advantage that Democrats now enjoy.

    “While those states lend an advantage to Democrats in presidential years, Republicans control all of state government in those three states after the GOP sweep of 2010.…

    “Republicans last year bolstered their chances in congressional races by redrawing district lines. Those boundaries have to be redrawn every decade to account for population changes, and Republicans were able to use that opportunity to their advantage since they controlled state government.” [519]

    A December 27, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reported that incoming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had sponsored a bill (Assembly Bill 589) to divide Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional district in 2008. [520]

    For additional information on the congressional-district approach, see sections 3.3 and 4.2.

    1.23.2  MYTH: It would be better to allocate electoral votes proportionally.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • Allocating electoral votes proportionally would make a bad system even worse.
  • Proportional allocation would not guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide.
  • Proportional allocation would not make every vote equal.
  • One of the counter-intuitive aspects of the whole-number proportional approach (which retains the Electoral College and the office of presidential elector) would result in most states being ignored in presidential elections.
  • The fractional proportional approach (which requires a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and abolish the office of presidential elector) would make every voter in every state politically relevant to presidential candidates; however, in a close election such as 2000, it would not have given the Presidency to the candidate who received the most popular votes nationwide. Moreover, it would not make every vote equal.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Proportional allocation of electoral votes could be implemented in two ways, and there are significant differences between the two approaches.

    First, a federal constitutional amendment could be adopted to implement the system on a nationwide basis. If an amendment were used, the Electoral College and the position of presidential elector would be abolished. It would therefore be possible to divide a state’s electoral votes into small decimal fractions (say, one-thousandth of an electoral vote). This approach (called the “fractional proportional approach”) was advocated in 1950 by Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R) and Texas Representative Ed Gossett (D). The Lodge-Gossett amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a 64–27 margin on February 1, 1950. This “fractional proportional approach” was also advocated by U.S. Senator Howard Cannon in 1969 (as discussed in detail in section 3.2).

    Second, an individual state could decide to allocate its own electoral votes proportionally by state legislation. Under this approach (called the “whole-number proportional approach”), the Electoral College and the position of presidential elector would remain in existence. A presidential elector is a person, and a person’s vote cannot be divided into fractions. As a result, each state would have to allocate its electoral votes in whole numbers. Colorado voters considered a ballot initiative to divide their state’s nine electoral votes in this manner in 2004 (but rejected it by a two-to-one margin).

    Both forms of the proportional approach fail when evaluated against the criteria of whether they would accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and whether they would make every vote equal.

    As shown in table 4.21, if the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the Electoral College, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress. Given the composition of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2001, the whole-number proportional approach would have resulted in the election of the second-place presidential candidate.

    If the fractional proportional approach had been used in 2000, it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. As shown in table 3.1, Al Gore would have received 259.969 electoral votes; George W. Bush would have received 260.323 electoral votes; and Ralph Nader would have received 17.707 electoral votes. The election would have been thrown into Congress. Given the composition of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2001, the fractional proportional approach would have resulted in the election of the second-place presidential candidate.

    Concerning the criterion of making every vote equal, every vote would not be equal under the proportional approach. The proportional approach would disadvantage rapidly growing states (e.g., Utah, Nevada) because electoral votes are only redistributed among the states every 10 years (after each federal census). The proportional approach would penalize states with a high degree of civic participation and high voter turnout (e.g., Oregon). The proportional approach would disadvantage certain states in relation to other states. For example, Montana and Wyoming each have one congressman and hence three electoral votes. However, Wyoming had a population of 495,304 in 2010, whereas Montana had a population of 905,316. See section 3.1 for additional details.

    If a federal constitutional amendment were adopted along the lines of proposals that have been previously introduced in Congress, the Electoral College and presidential electors would be abolished. Under these proposals, the electoral votes of each state and the District of Columbia would be divided proportionally according to the percentage of votes (carried out to three decimal places) received in that state by each presidential slate.

    The fractional proportional approach would succeed in making voters relevant in all 50 states and the District of Columbia because some fraction of an electoral vote would always be at stake in every state.

    If, on the other hand, individual states were to adopt the proportional system on a piecemeal basis through state legislation, the proportional system would be constrained to operating with whole numbers (not fractions carried out to several decimal places). Each participating state’s electoral vote would have to be rounded off to the nearest whole number. This rounding-off has counter-intuitive effects. In particular, there would be fewer battleground states under this system than under the current system.

    This counter-intuitive result comes about because of the rounding-off to whole numbers and the relatively small size of the Electoral College. There are only 538 electoral votes in the Electoral College (i.e., one for each U.S. Representative and Senator). The average number of electoral votes per state is, therefore, only about 11. Moreover, about three-quarters (36) of the states have a below-average number of electoral votes. The median number of electoral votes per state is only seven.

    Campaigning is rarely capable of shifting more than 8% of the vote during a typical presidential campaign. If one considers an average-sized state (i.e., a state with 11 electoral votes), one electoral vote would correspond to 9% of the popular vote in the state. In smaller states, one electoral vote would correspond to an even larger percentage of the popular vote in the state. In a state of median size (i.e., seven electoral votes), one electoral vote would correspond to 14% of the popular vote in the state. In the case of the seven states with three electoral votes, one electoral vote would correspond to 33% of the popular vote.

    As discussed in great detail in section 4.1, the only battleground states under the whole-number proportional approach would be those where popular sentiment in the state fortuitously hovers right at the critical boundary point where one electoral vote might be shifted. The vast majority of the states would not be poised anywhere near that critical boundary point. Presidential campaigns would consequently ignore every state where no electoral votes would be at stake. In the relatively small number of states fortuitously hovering right at the boundary point, the only “battle” in most cases would be for one electoral vote. That is, the whole-number proportional approach would be, in effect, a “winner-take-one” system (that is, the candidate receiving the most popular votes in the state would win an advantage of one electoral vote over the second-place candidate). The only exceptions would be that two or three electoral votes might be in play in California (with 55 electoral votes) and that two electoral votes might occasionally be in play in Texas (38 electoral votes), New York (29 electoral votes), and Florida (29 electoral votes). Texas, New York, and Florida, would be “winner-take-two” or “winner-take-one” states, and California would be a “winner-take-two” or a “winner-take-three” state. Under the whole-number proportional approach, most states would not hover anywhere near the critical boundary point and hence would be ignored by presidential campaigns. [521]

    In addition, there is a prohibitive political impediment associated with the adoption of the whole-number proportional approach on a piecemeal basis by individual states. Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Bill Owens and to reject, by a two-to-one margin, the ballot measure in November 2004 to award Colorado’s electoral votes using the whole-number proportional approach. This inherent defect cannot be remedied unless all 50 states and the District of Columbia were to simultaneously enact the proportional approach. This inherent defect cannot be remedied if, for example, 10, 20, 30, or even 40 states were to enact the whole-number proportional approach on a piecemeal basis. If as many as 48 or 49 states allocated their electoral votes proportionally, but just one or two large, closely divided battleground winner-take-all states did not, the state(s) continuing to use the winner-take-all system would immediately become the only state(s) that would matter in presidential politics. Thus, if states were to start adopting the proportional approach on a piecemeal basis, each additional state adopting the approach would increase the influence of the remaining winner-take-all states and thereby decrease the chance that the additional winner-take-all states would adopt the approach. A state-by-state process of adopting the proportional approach would bring itself to a halt.

    For more details on the fractional proportional approach, see section 3.2.

    For more details on the whole-number proportional approach, see section 4.1.

    2012 Proportional Proposal in Pennsylvania

    In December 2012, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R)[522] announced that he planned to introduce a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature in 2013 to award 18 of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes proportionally. Senator Pileggi’s proposal called for awarding 18 electoral votes using the whole-number proportional approach, while awarding a bonus of two at-large electoral votes to the candidate winning the state.[523]

    Table 9.22 shows how Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would be divided under Pileggi’s 2012 proportional approach (with a bonus of two at-large electoral votes) in a race with two major-party candidates. [524] In a state with 18 electoral votes, each electoral vote represents 5.56% of the statewide vote. Note that a candidate receiving between 47.22% and 49.99% of the statewide vote wins nine electoral votes. However, a candidate receiving between 50.01% and 52.78% of the statewide vote receives 11 electoral votes because of the bonus of two at-large electoral votes.

    Table 9.22 Division of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes under Senator Pileggi’s proportional approach (with bonus of two at-large electoral votes)

    Candidate receiving statewide popular vote of

    Wins this number of “proportional” electoral votes

    Wins this number of “bonus” electoral votes

    Wins this total number of electoral votes

    Between 0% and 2.78%

    0

    0

    0

    Between 2.78% and 8.33%

    1

    0

    1

    Between 8.33% and 13.89%

    2

    0

    2

    Between 13.89% and 19.44%

    3

    0

    3

    Between 19.44% and 25.00%

    4

    0

    4

    Between 25.00% and 30.56%

    5

    0

    5

    Between 30.56% and 36.11%

    6

    0

    6

    Between 36.11% and 41.67%

    7

    0

    7

    Between 41.67% and 47.22%

    8

    0

    8

    Between 47.22% and 49.99%

    9

    0

    9

    Between 50.01% and 52.78%

    9

    2

    11

    Between 52.78% and 58.33%

    10

    2

    12

    Between 58.33% and 63.89%

    11

    2

    13

    Between 63.89% and 69.44%

    12

    2

    14

    Between 69.44% and 75.00%

    13

    2

    15

    Between 75.00% and 80.56%

    14

    2

    16

    Between 80.56% and 86.11%

    15

    2

    17

    Between 86.11% and 91.67%

    16

    2

    18

    Between 91.67% and 97.22%

    17

    2

    19

    Between 97.22% and 100%

    18

    2

    20

    In a December 2012 article entitled “Electoral College Chaos: How Republicans Could Put a Lock on the Presidency,” Rob Richie discussed the political effect of Senator Pileggi’s 2012 proportional proposal (with his proposed bonus of two at-large electoral votes) in six states that President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 and where the Republican party controlled both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s office (that is, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida). [525]

    In November 2012, President Obama won the electoral votes of these six states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida) by a 106–0 margin over Governor Romney. This 106–0 margin helped President Obama win the Electoral College by a 62-vote margin (332–206).

    Table 9.23 shows the effect (using data from Richie’s article) of applying Senator Pileggi’s 2012 proportional proposal (with his proposed bonus of two at-large electoral votes) to the actual 2012 election returns from six states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida).

    Table 9.23 Political effect of Pileggi’s 2012 proportional approach (with bonus of two at-large electoral votes) in six states that Obama carried in 2012

    State

    D

    R

    D proportional

    R proportional

    D at-large

    R at-large

    D total

    R total

    FL

    50%

    49%

    14

    13

    2

    0

    16

    13

    MI

    54%

    45%

    8

    6

    2

    0

    10

    6

    OH

    51%

    48%

    8

    8

    2

    0

    10

    8

    PA

    52%

    47%

    9

    9

    2

    0

    11

    9

    VA

    51%

    47%

    6

    5

    2

    0

    8

    5

    WI

    53%

    46%

    4

    4

    2

    0

    6

    4

    Total

     

     

    49

    45

    12

    0

    61

    45

    Under Pileggi’s 2012 proportional proposal (with his proposed bonus of two at-large electoral votes), President Obama would have received only 61 electoral votes to Governor Romney’s 45 electoral votes in the six states in table 9.23, and President Obama would have ended up with a 287–251 win in the Electoral College (that is, much closer than his actual 332–206 win in 2012).

    For comparison, table 9.24 shows the effect of applying the whole-number proportional approach to all of a state’s electoral votes (as described in section 4.1 of this book) using the actual 2012 election results from the six states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida). [526]

    Table 9.24 Political effect of whole-number proportional approach in six states that Obama carried in 2012

    State

    D

    R

    D total

    R total

    FL

    50%

    49%

    15

    14

    MI

    54%

    45%

    9

    7

    OH

    51%

    48%

    9

    9

    PA

    52%

    47%

    11

    9

    VA

    51%

    47%

    7

    6

    WI

    53%

    46%

    5

    5

    Total

     

     

    56

    50

    As shown in table 9.24, under the whole-number proportional approach, President Obama would have received only 56 electoral votes to Governor Romney’s 50 electoral votes in those six states, and President Obama would have ended up with a 282–256 win in the Electoral College (that is, much closer than his actual 332–206 win in 2012).

    Clifford B. Levine, a prominent Democrat in Pennsylvania, said the following in a speech to the meeting of the Electoral College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on December 17, 2012:

    “If Pennsylvania became the third state to split its electors—lightly populated Maine and Nebraska are the only states that do so now—it would have little influence in future presidential elections, diminishing the voice of Pennsylvania on the national stage.

    “Worse, seems a more nefarious nationwide scheme is being orchestrated by far-right strategists.

    “In 2010, Republicans took control of state legislatures in many battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia and Florida, which have voted Democratic in recent presidential elections. Instead of listening to voters, Republican leaders in those states have recently proposed similar drastic changes to the elector-selection process, seeking a pro rata allocation of electors in their states.

    “These partisans assert this allocation is fair because the winner-take-all approach deprives the losing party of a voice. What these partisan Republicans do not address—and what every voter and journalist in America should ask—is whether the pro rata systems are being proposed in red states, where Republicans control the state government and which vote Republican in presidential elections. Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Missouri apparently will retain the winner-take-all selection method. Only in blue states are proposals being made to dilute Democratic strength. The result would be a country of red states and irrelevant states, with preordained election results.” [527] [Emphasis added]


    502 Gans, Curtis and Francis, Leslie. Why National Popular Vote is a bad idea. Huffington Post. January 6, 2012.

    503 Thomas, A. C.; Gelman, Andrew; King, Gary; and Katz, Jonathan N. 2012. Estimating partisan bias of the Electoral College under proposed changes in elector apportionment. SSRN-id2136804. August 27, 2012.

    504 The January 12, 1800, letter is discussed in greater detail and quoted in its entirety in section 2.2.3. Ford, Paul Leicester. 1905. The Works of Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 9:90.

    506 DeCoursey, Peter L. Specter bluntly says electoral change will cut fed funding for PA. Pennsylvania Capitol Wire. September 27, 2011. http://www.politicspa.com/927-morning-buzz/28145/.

    507 Chron.com. September 17, 2011.

    508 Wereschagin, Mike and Bumsted, Brad Bumsted. GOP plan could jeopardize Pennsylvania's political clout. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. September 13, 2011. http://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/s_756446.html#axzz2FzxzjtKI.

    509 Heidenreich, Sari and Gibson, Keegan. Less hawkish tone from Gleason, Priebus about Electoral College changes. PoliticsPA. September 17, 2011. http://www.politicspa.com/less-hawkish-tone-from-gleason-priebus-about-electoral-college-changes/27881/.

    510 Yadron, Danny. Pete Sessions: Pa. Electoral College change would put house races at risk. September 15, 2011. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/09/15/pete-sessions-pa-electoral-college-change-would-put-house-races-at-risk/?mod=WSJBlog&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter.

    511 Richie, Rob. Electoral College chaos: How Republicans could put a lock on the presidency. December 13, 2012. http://www.fairvote.org/electoral-college-chaos-how-republicans-could-put-a-lock-on-the-presidency.

    512 Wilson, Reid. The GOP’s Electoral College scheme. National Journal. December 17, 2012. http://www.nationaljournal.com/columns/on-the-trail/the-gop-s-electoral-college-scheme-20121217.

    513 Gibson, Keegan. House Republicans resurrect congressional-based Electoral College plan. PoliticsPA. December 20, 2012. http://www.politicspa.com/house-rs-resurrect-congressional-based-electoral-college-plan/44960/.

    515 Lund: Divide Electoral College votes by congressional district. Michigan Information and Research Service. December 17, 2012. www.mirsnews.com/alert.php?alert_id=1352.

    516 Associated Press. Changes advocated in Pennsylvania electoral vote counting. PennLive. December 22, 2012. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/12/changes_advocated_in_pennsylva.html.

    517 Nazworth, Napp. GOP operatives eye reversal of Democrats' Electoral College edge. Christian Post. December 20, 2012. http://www.christianpost.com/news/gop-operatives-eye-reversal-of-democrats-electoral-college-edge-87014/.

    519 Marley, Patrick. Walker open to changing state’s Electoral College allocations. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. December 22, 2012. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/walker-open-to-changing-states-electoral-college-allocations-8884ck6-184566961.html.

    520 Marley, Patrick. Vos previously backed changing electoral vote rules. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. December 27, 2012. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/vos-previously-backed-changing-electoral-vote-rules-jb865ct-184975431.html.

    521 For more details, see section 3.2 and chapter 4.

    524 The whole-number proportional approach can be implemented in several slightly different ways, depending how third parties, fractions, and round-offs are treated. Senator Pileggi did not release legislative language at the time of announcing his proposal in December 2012. The calculation here assumes use of the whole-number proportional approach as described in section 4.1 of this book and also assumes only two major-party candidates.

    525 Richie, Rob. Electoral College chaos: How Republicans could put a lock on the presidency. December 13, 2012. http://www.fairvote.org/electoral-college-chaos-how-republicans-could-put-a-lock-on-the-presidency.

    526 The whole-number proportional approach can be implemented in several slightly different ways, depending how fractions, round-offs, and third parties are treated. Senator Pileggi did not release legislative language for his 2012 proportional proposal as of the time of this writing. The calculation here assumes use of the whole-number proportional approach as described in chapter 4 of this book.

    527 Levine, Clifford B. Hands off the Electoral College! Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 30, 2012. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/hands-off-the-electoral-college-668327/.

    Reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote reflects the nationwide popular vote for President